Introduction: Confessions of a Liberated Secret Keeper Prologue: Stealing Thrills Chapter 1: Tender Roots, Twisted Chapter 2: Innocence Lost Chapter 3: Sanity Regained Chapter 4: Secrets Shared Chapter 5: Death's Door
Chapter 6: Breaking Free Away from Home Chapter 7: Hollywood or Bust Chapter 8: The Marriage Circle Chapter 9: Despair Chapter 10: A Wheat Field in Nebraska
Chapter 11: Holy in Hollywood Chapter 12: Marching to a New Drummer Chapter 13: Minneapolis Revisited Chapter 14: Homecoming Chapter 15: Sanity on Trial
Chapter 16: Quantum Leaps, Forward and Back Chapter 17: Marriage Vows on Trial Chapter 18: Bachelor on the Rocks Chapter 19: Bill W.'s Friend Chapter 20: United and Whole Epilogue: Liberation Endnotes and References Appendix: Reading List
Stolen Hours is written for:
People who have secrets that make them unhealthy or unhappy.
Practicing Secret Keepers who are looking for solutions to the suffering caused by the double-minded choices of their secret lives.
Persons living with a Secret Keeper, frequently burdened or weary, who are seeking encouragement but don't know how to get it.
Readers of inspirational books who are seeking practical and spiritual help via the experience of someone's trials and triumphs, defeats and victories.
Professionals in the counseling, social work, and pastoral fields who deal with secret-keeping behaviors and who will use this book's ideas, theories, and practical advice to help their clients.
Certain names have been changed out of respect for the real persons' privacy.
The information in Stolen Hours should not be regarded as a substitute for individualized professional services or counseling.
"If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities." Maya Angelou
Memories of my exhilarating runs in the woods kept calling to me, beckoning at a primal level. One hot summer evening when I was alone at home, I felt the scary thrill of leaving the house naked. I darted from the kitchen door to the woods, all of my clothes left behind. My run on the secluded trail felt jubilant and freeing.
The sensuality I experienced whenever I ran along the deer trail beside the lake spiked my emotions. My mind calculated the risks of getting caught, but I assured myself that I'd never been caught before, why should anyone catch me this time? Still, what if this time was different? Engulfed by acres of oak and birch trees, with a powder-blue sky above, I knew I could turn back and play it safe. But no, I felt the thrill of stealing hours to do something daring and not get caught.
As I jogged gleefully along the deer path-light-footed, fleet, free, unrestrained-the danger, the sheer risk-risk-risk exhilarated me. These escapades made up for everything awful at home. My pleasure soared, my misery plunged. Exhilarated, feeling giddy and reckless, I sensed again the now familiar pleasure/excitement/delight cycle.
The Secret Keeper in me was growing.
Forty-five minutes later when I returned home, I found, to my horror, Aunt Flora and Uncle Don's '56 Oldsmobile parked in the driveway. Ducking low, I saw their shadows moving in the living room. I crept to a corner of the house and crouched in the underbrush on the fringe of the lakeshore with no way to get inside except being seen. I felt so exposed.
Pangs of fear!
Waves of shame!
No way to explain my nudity!
Naked and exposed-truly!
Something told me there had to be a way inside. It was dusk and twilight lurked close on its heels. Could some combination of stealth and darkness rescue me? I circled through the tall underbrush toward the side of the house to evade detection, risking injury to my face and limbs from the twigs slapping against me. Peeking around the corner of the garage, risking discovery by the neighbors, I looked and saw that Aunt Flora and Uncle Don had let themselves in through the kitchen door-perhaps to help prepare for Dad's expected return from the hospital. Fortunately, they would not be aware of the back door, if I could only get there and open it quickly. I circled back the way I'd come and positioned myself as close to the back of the house as possible in order to make a sudden dash to the door. Looking in several directions, I detected some neighbors with their lights on, but nobody paying attention. I took a huge breath, then beelined in a crouched position to the back door.
I turned the doorknob-locked!
Totally exposed, I had no time to regroup. In a flash I bolted toward my bedroom, hoping wildly that I'd left the window open. Feeling foolish, I scurried past the lakeside birches we boys had uprooted and replanted. Speeding around the corner, I saw the window was open about eight inches. I duck-walked to it, staying low, then pulled myself up onto the sill with one hand and pushed the screen with the other. The aluminum frame refused to give. I shoved harder, and harder. At last the frame buckled. I was in luck. I quietly rammed it with my fist, breaking the hardware, enough for me to head-butt myself inside.
Panting madly from exertion, also bleeding from a nasty scratch to my thigh, I toweled myself off and felt indescribable relief. Jumping into my high-school gym shorts and T-shirt, I took deep breaths and worked to calm myself. Ecstatic gratitude, mixed with shame, coursed through me: the thought of defaming our family's name horrified me. Taking slow breaths, I headed down the hallway to greet my aunt and uncle, and-an academy award performance later-they believed my phony story about doing push-ups in my bedroom with Elvis on the radio and not being able to hear them at the other end of the house when they let themselves in. We chatted while they waited for Mom to come home from work and asked about Dad's illness.
Within me, I shouted thanks to some unnamed force for smiling down on me-and laughed to myself at their cluelessness.
Talk about feeling one way while acting another!
The lessons from this near calamity served me well in the months and years ahead. I pondered the implications of these new, brash secrets to keep. I vowed to never ever ever take such a wanton risk again. But, of course, my days as a Secret Keeper would have ended then and three-and- a-half decades still lay ahead.
Once the exhilaration faded, I realized I'd gone far past the boundaries of acceptability and proved dangerously fearless beyond my own limits, more than I ever believed possible. Doing so set the stage for stealing more hours and secret-keeping at new levels. Beyond secret solo romps in the woods or "getting lost" in other ways, lurking in the depths of my soul remained the deepest and darkest secret of all, the one I prevented acting out more than any other and spent future hours struggling to conquer.